One of your staff members is on holiday, and you suddenly feel less burdened and are enjoying work more and when you look at your team you notice they appear energised and are getting more stuff done despite being one man down.
If this is the case, it means you are paying a salary to have yourself and your team pulled down... Something has to be done and quickly. But how?
Sue Ingram, author of ‘FIRE WELL - How to fire staff so they thank you’ has some advice:
1. Firstly, recognise that the individual concerned is totally unaware of what they are doing or how they impact the team.
2. Identify exactly what they are doing that is pulling everyone down. A tone of voice? A certain phrase? Being quick to get exasperated? Observe them in action and list them down.
3. What are the consequences of the bad behaviour? What do you see their colleagues doing as a result? Again list all the small indicators. This is all evidence that you need to collect.
4. What is the positive intention behind the bad behaviour? For example, the exasperating busybody may have the positive intention of being a key and indispensable member of the team.
5. What are they already doing very well? What do you value about them? What do you respect? List them down and identify evidence of this in action in order to be fair and balance the negative feedback.
6. What is really important to them in their job? What do they personally want to achieve? When do you see them looking energised?
Now you are ready to present the situation to them. Below is an example of an introductory statement. Remember to adopt a calm, professional and unrushed tone of voice throughout - you genuinely want to improve their performance.
“Thank you [their name] for attending this meeting. I have something to discuss with you that I do not think you are currently aware of but which I consider to be holding you back from attaining [their personal importance for the job]. I know you to be someone who is committed to [positive intention behind bad behaviour], however I have observed behaviour that I believe is currently working against you achieving that goal. Let me give you an example...”
“Last week I observed you [insert specific detailed incidence such as] speaking to Laura over an incident in the kitchen using a tone of voice that was very sharp and decisive. In fact, I noticed Laura looking quite upset and she turned away from you with a set face. It was clear that she did not want to speak to you any further.”
At this point expect denial as they begin to argue back, this is perfectly normal. Remain calm, no matter their response as this point and continue.
“As I said I do not think you are aware of how you are behaving in such situations and that this is not the outcome you want to achieve.”
At this point, if possible, mimic the body language and tone of voice they used; it really helps get the point across. Then:
“If this was just one incident then it would not really matter, after all we can all be sharp and abrasive at times, but sadly it is not. You seem to have developed a habit of communicating in this way. [Give further examples] Unfortunately the consequences of this habit are that [list negative consequences that matter to the individual, such as] your team members will not view you as the positive member of the team that I know you want to be but rather as a negative person to be avoided. Why only the other week I observed [evidence of the negative consequence]. I do not want this to be the case for any of my team members, least of all someone who [positive intention behind behaviour]. This is not right and needs to stop. We need to work on changing your current habit from [statement] to one that achieves your aims.”
It may take some time for the individual to absorb your feedback – but in the long term it can literally change lives. It is possible for a team member to shift their behaviour and become valued and positive once more. If not, and you reach the point where you need to let them go, then you will have done everything you can, including starting the process in such a way that it will be easier for you and for them – they may even thank you for it!
Sue Ingram is Director of Converse Well and author of ‘Fire Well - How to fire staff so they thank you’. Sue has spent over 27 years working in HR and related fields and in 2000 she became one of the UK’s first Executive Coaches; she is an Honorary Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University where her workshop forms part of their International MBA program. Her workshop, How to Fire Staff so They Thank You has been delivered to over a 1000 managers in the both the private and public sectors.